Article by Paul Sutherland
Having a secure, fulfilling retirement is a primary goal for most of us. At some point in the future we will no longer receive a “paycheck” from an employer and will instead rely on the income from assets we have accumulated and saved, plus income benefits from defined benefit pensions, Social Security benefits, distributions from retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s, deferred compensation, sale of our business and other investments. For most people, the overriding and often primary directive of financial planning is simply “retirement planning.” However, planning for retirement is not a particularly easy process.The retirement planning process involves using a retirement planning calculator and creating a road map toward your retirement goal and developing a plan to achieve that goal. The plan generally considers post-retirement budgeting, savings, tax management, debt management, pre-retirement budgeting and a host of other inputs all geared toward ensuring a quality retirement. However, planning for retirement takes time and judgment, because it involves many unknown variables. Among the top variables that may determine when retirement is feasible are lifestyle/family goals, longevity, future income tax rates, portfolio returns, the effect of inflation on expenses and future investment returns.Let’s review the basics of these variables as they relate to your retirement plan.
Lifestyle Goals Would you like to travel? Own one home or two? What is your retirement vision? These questions and others like them are necessary to help create a budget for your specific retirement needs.
Longevity Attempting to gauge how long we’re going to live in retirement is a task that’s becoming more and more difficult. Medical advances have led to increased life spans and continue to increase the mortality age. This is best illustrated by the Social Security system. In its original design, participants in Social Security were expected to live only a few years after they have begun receiving benefits. People live longer now, and life spans are increasing each year. We believe it is wise to project a retirement plan that assumes you’ll live to age 100.
Future Tax Rates Since we can only spend our “aftertax” income, it is imperative that we consider what tax rates our retirement income will be subject to. However, as government bodies at all levels change with each election, so do virtually all tax laws, including property tax, sales tax, state income tax and the granddaddy of them all, the federal income tax. Taxes such as property and sales taxes should be adjusted to account for cost of living increases. One thing is certain – taxes will exist in retirement.
Investment Returns How much you can withdraw from your “nest egg” each year is perhaps the most critical variable to retirement projections. Like the other retirement variables, the annual return on your nest egg will not be linear. As we know, the investments most suited for providing long-term income security into retirement are going to fluctuate. Financial markets can have long periods of up and down investment return cycles. We need continual income and that is the key. That’s why we work toward constructing portfolios that can provide lifetime income security for our clients. Many retirees get caught up in “short-termism” and use CDs, shortterm bonds and fixed annuities as core holdings in their retirement portfolio. But this investment strategy is very risky. While inflation causes things to cost more, deflation can keep interest rates low for many years, requiring the need for retirees to invade their principal savings to meet their budget needs.At FIM Group, we balance the long-term asset volatility with the more stable fixed investments to construct our clients’ portfolios. Our goal is to allow clients to live on the income generated from their diversified portfolio with a goal of providing income that can increase over time. That way clients won’t need to invade principal. Simply put, we call it living on the eggs (investment returns), not the chicken (principal).
Inflation Loss of purchasing power caused by rising prices must be included in any retirement plan. It is safe to say that one dollar will buy less in the future. As you progress into retirement, you should factor in giving yourself a raise periodically to offset cost of living increases.
Family Constraints Will you need to provide for or care for your parents and/or children in retirement? If so, how much will you help them? In summary, we are realistic about retirement planning and take retirement seriously. While the future is unknown, we do know that life will go on, some businesses will grow and pay great dividends, interest rates will fluctuate, politicians will fiddle with taxes, and inflation and deflation will fight it out. One thing, however, is certain: we will retire someday.
About the Author
The author has great knowledge about financial planning. He has offered financial planning to many people as well. He has written many articles on financial planning.